Screened as part of NZIFF 2001

The Big Animal 2000

Directed by Jerzy Stuhr

Poland In Polish with English subtitles
75 minutes 35mm / B&W



Sdawomir Rugowski


Krzysztof Kieślowski. Based on the story by Kazimierz Orloś


Pawed Edelman


Elzỳbieta Kurkowska

Production Designer

Monika Sajko-Gradowska

Costume Designer

Elzỳbieta Radke


Nikodem Wołk-Łaniewski


Abel Korzeniowski


Jerzy Stuhr (Mr Sawicki)
Anna Dymna (Mrs Sawicka)


A short feature with a large heart, The Big Animal is also a gift from the great beyond: working from a recently-discovered, unfinished 1973 screenplay by the late Krzysztof Kieślowski, vet Polish actor-helmer Jerzy Stuhr (who appeared in a number of Kieślowski’s films and still refers to him as ‘my best friend’) has made a rueful yet gentle fable about the price of individuality and the value of dignity that preserves the intellectually stimulating spirit of Kieślowski’s best work while tapping into a universally understandable vein of low-keyed absurdist comedy…

Left behind by a travelling circus, a huge camel (Rubio) wanders into the garden of bank clerk and clarinet enthusiast Zygmunt Sawicki (Stuhr) and his schoolteacher wife Marysia. She’s nervous at first, plaintively complaining the beast ‘gazes back at me’ as its cud-chewing head hovers just outside their dining room window during meals. Zygmunt, however, takes to the dromedary immediately and is soon escorting it on long walks in and around their village while proclaiming ‘this is freedom, buddy.’

The townspeople too seem perfectly comfortable with a large beast of burden in their midst, cheering when Sawicki strolls proudly through in his perfectly belted trenchcoat and black beret with it in tow. He even displays the camel for the delight of Marysia’s charges, who compete to give it a name like Pampoosh, Fluffy, Fuzzy or Hunchback (Sawicki prefers Ramses or Nile).

But soon everyone grows tired and suspicious of the camel except the modest and quiet Sawickis, who are distressed by the ostracism but continue to cherish the animal…

Perhaps the most recognized face in Polish cinema, Stuhr is in complete command of the material on both sides of the camera…

He promptly establishes a leisurely yet precise pace from the outset, preferring to let the often humorous blocking and some finely calibrated reaction shots carry the movie.

And the animal itself – actually a pair of them, as they apparently dislike being alone – hits its mark every time and takes direction like a pro, exuding a blissful serenity… — Eddie Cockrell, Variety, 17/7/00